After a half-decade hiatus, the return of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was nothing short of a (hot) mess. What caught the eye was the stark departure from tradition – no angels graced the stage, and the iconic catwalks were but a shadow of their former selves.
The half documentary half runway show offered a peculiar juxtaposition. Instead of setting the stage for lingerie glamour, we were transported to a haven of worldwide artists, including: musicians, painters and poets. While their mastery was impressive, the disconnect from the brand’s core identity was palpable and left one contemplating its purpose.
Seemingly inspired by the legendary Paco Rabanne chainmail dress, the Lagos collection was a visual feast for the eyes. Models and former angels like Naomi Campbell donned exquisite golden and feathered dresses with intricate body jewellery and tremendous earrings… But Bubu Ogisi’s work is a display of high fashion, it is not remotely aligned with what VS stands for in the lines of the former enthusiasts. The purpose of this rebranding is so much of a Secret that even Victoria seems unaware of what the brand now represents.
While embracing stretch marks and scars was commendable for promoting body positivity, I wondered whether this shift aligns with the brand’s fundamental identity or is a strategic pivot.
Victoria’s Secret has faced its share of criticism, as it has traditionally upheld a particular standard of beauty. Featuring a select group of models who embody an unreachable angel-like ideal; many argued this was a harmful rhetoric to put upon young women. However, the 2023 rebranding efforts appeared to be equally polarizing. While it aimed to spotlight underrepresented groups, it inadvertently perpetuated a new form of positive discrimination, straying from genuine inclusivity and “normal” looking girls. There is no norm, and there is either one side of the weight spectrum or the other.
The Tokyo segment was nothing short of a radical departure from the show’s first segment, with models in fat suits along with whimsical dancing carrots: a gardener’s fever dream. This ambition, seemingly undertaken to challenge prevailing societal norms and extol the virtues of body diversity, bore an air of incongruity when juxtaposed with the carefully crafted, sophisticated image that Victoria’s Secret had painstakingly honed throughout its illustrious history. In contrast, brands like Djerf Avenue demonstrate an authentic commitment to inclusivity. This pursuit, ostensibly a straightforward endeavour, has become a formidable challenge for many brands whom have, ironically, rebranded with inclusivity as a guiding principle.
The Victoria’s Secret rebranding might be seen as performative and strategically driven rather than genuinely inclusive. This revival prompts us to contemplate whether it signifies a progressive stride forward or is primarily a calculated adaptation to sustain relevance within the continually evolving realm of fashion.
Image: Cyril Attias via Flikr